THE new Women’s Section of the Statsports SupercupNI tournament is set to be played in the Antrim & Newtownabbey area after the organisers said a request for extra funding was not acted upon by Mid & East Antrim Council.
In a letter to Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, the SupercupNI organisers said: ‘As you know we approached both Mid and East Antrim and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councils in October 2019 about the possibility of additional financial support for the expansion of the tournament in 2020 by including a women’s section.’
The letter – which was provided in the publicly accessible meeting pack for the December meeting of the Council – goes on to say that ‘despite efforts’ by Mid & East Antrim Council’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy, ‘no extra funding was available from either Council area’.
The letter continues: ‘As pointed out at that time we believed we had to approach another funder for the additional financial support and as a result, Antrim and Newtownabbey BC have agreed to become a partner with us and the women’s section games will be played at venues in their area’.
The letter said the tournament organisers value having Mid & East Antrim Council as a partner ‘and believe that by going forward together we can play a part in the regeneration of the area after having had such a horrendous experience as a result of the pandemic’.
The letter goes on to say that ‘suitable accommodation has always been a problem’ and the appreciated the offer the Council made for their Economic Development team to work with them to ‘increase the opportunities to access additional hotel accommodation in your area in the future’.
The Supercup organisers said they appreciated the support from Mid & East Antrim Council officers ‘to integrate discounts for your key tourism and hospitality venues with our multi-match ticket holders as we feel that will help with our aim of highlighting tourist attractions in the tournament area and thus drive up footfall for those attractions’.
The Supercup letter said their Business Recovery Plan and social media campaign this year was made possible by support they received from Mid & East Antrim Council.
The letter added: ‘We are very busy planning for next year and as well as using Ballymena Showgrounds, Ahoghill, Broughshane and Clough we are delighted that Kells will also be ready for us to use in 2021.’
The letter said they have also discussed with Council officials ‘possible venues’ in the Carrickfergus and Larne areas for 2021 ‘and those discussions will be progressed early in January’.
When the letter was tabled at a Mid & East Antrim Council meeting in Ballymena this week, Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, told councillors: “There was a bit of disappointing news, I’m sure you have read the report.”
Cllr Gregg McKeen said it was “disappointing” and suggested that the Council Chief Executive and perhaps the Mayor arrange to meet with the tournament organisers “to emphasis how much Mid & East Antrim would like that full element of the tournament, especially the roll out to Larne and Carrickfergus.”
Councillor McKeen said he would like such a meeting to take place “to see if there is any opportunity to get that resolved”.
Next year’s tournament is due to be held at the end of July.
At a previous Mid Antrim Council meeting in November Mayor Johnston said international events such as the SupercupNI were a “key driver” for tourism.
He said the tournament will also form a “huge part” of the borough’s economic recovery plan following the pandemic.
Mayor Johnston said he was delighted to hear of the details of next year’s tournament which is due to be held between July 25-July 31.
He said Mid & East Antrim had a “proud history” of involvement in the tournament.
The Mayor had said he was delighted there are now two additional sections – a youth section and a women’s section – which would increase the number of games from 64 to 80.
The Mayor said recent investment at Kells meant it could now take part.
The Council had agreed to sponsor the tournament ‘up to £75,000’.
Councillor Keith Turner (Ulster Unionist) had said in November the tournament “brings great kudos” to the borough and he said it showcased the area “in the best possible light”.
A report prepared for councillors in November showed the overall SupercupNI – which is also held in areas including the Causeway Coast & Glens district – attracted over 50,000 visitors, 2,500 participants and generated 29,000 bed nights.
The report said: ‘In 2019 the event delivered £4.4million to the local NI economy and created positive promotion of NI with a media value of £10.2 million.
‘Within Mid and East Antrim it is estimated that the benefits are over £1 million to the Borough’s local economy and £200,000 of brand exposure, rising significantly when digital media across all markets is included.’